My take on organized religion....

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Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 10:32 am
From a blog I wrote in May....

Utopia? Thoughts on a Spiritual Revolution
Category: Religion and Philosophy


We define ourselves and others by our nationalities, ethnicities, hair colors, genders, sexual orientations, psychological aberrations, ages, professions; we're members and followers of traditions, trends, cults, philosophies, political parties.

Somehow we've robbed ourselves of the ultimate freedom- the innate gift of independent thinking.

But in no other area of self- definition and personal progression have we allowed ourselves to be so devastatingly cheated as with what SHOULD be belief, but is RELIGION.

So we're pack animals, creatures of comfort and habit. Most of us are more content to be led than to lead or explore alternatives. We have a learned, irrational tendency to unthinkingly conform, to be attracted by novelty on a base level and yet be immobilized by a strange neophobia where the spiritual is concerned. We've become used to repressing, avoiding, and ultimately denying ourselves the frightening- but imperative to spiritual growth- exploration of our own souls and their unknown destiny and fate, but also tragically their infinite potential.


We cling to tradition, almost unquestioningly accepting what's served to us in terms of stale spiritual fare. We imitate rather than innovate, not daring to stray from the beaten paths where it would be, ironically, most important. We timorously go with the flow and are swallowed in the masses of collective non- thinking and brainwashing. Most of us have been indoctrinated from birth, ostensibly for our own good, with the idea that organized religion is the only way to save ourselves. Even in the most common case of religion by "default", adoption of the religion of our families, we have an inertia- like tendency to accept the default and very rarely give a serious thought, "practicing" or not, to opt completely out.


WHY, in our supposedly otherwise so advanced era are we still so dark- age backward in spiritual progression?


Of course there are the obvious benefits of community and comfort, guidance and a certain peace of mind. But we have to weigh them against the negatives. We can't deny that we're fully aware of the almost unfathomably detrimental, oppressive influence that organized religion has always had on the political- economical, social/ moral/ ideological evolution of man. The books and scriptures are filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and destructive teachings. Religious fundamentalism with its deliberate misinterpretations and the resulting horrors of terrorism, prejudice and discrimination are spreading again at a sickening rate, and brutal wars are still being fought, as ever, because of these teachings. Extreme misogynistic practices, physical mutilation, unwanted pregnancies and barbaric lynchings are (to mention just a few) daily occurences in the name of various religions. There can be no realistic secularization on a global scale.


Why can't we let go?


Isn't it painfully obvious that it's highest time for a real SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION?


Can't we begin to think for ourselves? To take the initiative, make a gesture, a sensible sacrifice and find the courage- as opposed to passively distancing ourselves even as nonpracticers- to officially


RENOUNCE OUR RELIGIONS


and seek our spiritual identities on our own? It's ludicrous that intelligent beings seem to be ignoring the fact that it is a logical impossibility to embrace and adhere to an entire doctrine, a set of beliefs with all it's intricacies, implications, ambiguities and blatant contradictions and to rationally, honestly say: "Yes, this is what I believe."


Is it so hard to recognize the massive discrepancy between "religion" and "belief"? The obvious paradox? The joke that's been played on us as an ancient means of subjugation and control under the guise of spirituality?


A belief- a true faith- is a conviction.


The term "religious conviction" in conjunction with organized religion is an oxymoron.


A SPIRITUAL conviction is the most personal, individual belief there can be and the result of a perhaps lifelong journey of difficult, frightening, painful and rewarding introspection, reflection, and intense soul- searching. It can ONLY come from the deepest self and not from opaque historical accounts and myths or elitist, undemocratic doctrines DICTATED by others.


At this point I feel the need to clarify: this is by no means an attempt to inculcate in anyone a "new" belief or faith- on the contrary!


This is a plea to shed the familiar, the dangerous and obsolete, to inspire the will to finally correct where we've gone wrong since the beginning of civilization; to reclaim, relearn and exalt individual freedom of thinking (discluding theological eclecticism and personal forms of mysticism) and the natural human propensity toward


INDEPENDENT SPIRITUAL EXPLORATION-


to dissolve the borders of which we have an overabundance of, to go into OURSELVES to find our truths and back to each other. We MUST liberate ourselves from the labels, the ready- made definitions, the false safety of mass psychology and dumbing- down of dangerous superstition and untenable sentimental traditional patterns and become AWARE of the emotional, cognitive, political and social forces that have always dictated our thinking in often deceptively subliminal ways and address the ROOT of the most critical issues facing our world if we're to change it and ourselves for the better.


We are not helpless, it is not hopeless. Revolutionary ideologies on a grand scale are always threatening and potentially dangerous, but when we consider the cataclysmic events that usually precede great socio- political progressions, we have to answer the question:


What is ultimately more dangerous- change or standstill? Pacifistic upheaval or passive complacency?


Is it overly idealistic to attempt to begin the singlemost overdue, admittedly ambitious change in the history of humanity-


or is it our moral responsibility?


L.L.

Note: Written in the spirit of '68!:rockon:
(I've left the Catholic church- oi!)
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 11:37 am
@Riverdale,
Allowing Others to define you, or accepting their definitions as definitive is a form of bad faith. Because only YOU can choose in freedom what you want to become, outside definitions that attempt to objectivefy the Self deprive it of its freedom, responsibility, and choices.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:01 pm
@Riverdale,
I am not so sure myself that, in the affluent western world at least, we have robbed ourself of individuality. I would go so far as to suggest that members of my society regularly adopt an almost provocative individuality - some of the more difficult people I find myself dealing with are at least partly so because they simply refuse to compromise what they see as their individuality.

Individuality can in itself become a cult (of personality) and seems to me to render certain practitioners highly antisocial (I recall a number of times were the defence of "I was just being myself" or "I was calling it as I see it" was used to justify provocative behaviour).

You are right to point out that we tend to define ourselves according to a number of attributes, from hair colour to preffered diet to political opinions to religious convictions.

Rather than seeing the adoption of these attributes as a barrier to individuality I tend to view the combinations of attributes people choose for themselves as what makes them individual. People are in essence 100% individual in a state of nature, the adoption of attributes is what defines an individual from a morass of pure individuality. (This doesn't seem to make much sense I suppose - what I am perhaps saying is that if we were all as individual as possible individuality would cease to be anything precious or even discernable).

So Clare is the metalhead with red hair who eats vegan votes labour and goes to bible study classes once a month or so, Frank is shy and into preppy fashions and likes to read books and learn to make music, Vivian is brashly eccentric and lives on a boat and keeps reptiles, I am an overwieght and rapidly crumbling indie kid who likes to be sceptical.

These pigeon holes might compromise individuality to a certain degree, but they also define us as individuals. I know a few people who are genuine hard to categorise - I would have to say I find them deeply difficult to relate to and get along with (not for want of trying, I count some of them amongst my best friends, etc).

So I am not sure we innately and unthinkingly conform any more than we wilfully individualise. I think we try on a variety of hats until we discover or develop a persona that suits us.

One of these personas might be the persona of the zealot or evangelist, and I find (as I imagine you find) such people rather intimidating and annoying. At the same time I can't escape from the fact that people seem to possess a poweful drive to espouse their worldviews (otherwise why I am bothering to write this post).

I would prefer, in a perfect world, for people to believe in whatever individual ideas they come up with for mysteries such as first cause of creation, life after death and so on.

The sticking point seems to come with morality, as I suspect communities require some moral guidelines in order to develop a shared value system - a rough guide to what is and what isn't socially acceptable to a given group. I think religions play an important part in this role, but it might also explain why periods of insecurity result when one religion encroaches into the territory of another - which I suspect is why religion is a principle ingredient in so many wars.

On the plus side religion is also the source of many arguements for increased toleration: anti-slavery movements, charities, Moorish Spain and spinoza are just a few of the undoubtably "progressive" (for their time) ideologies that have roots in religion.

It ought to mentioned as well that secular or athiestic ideologies are just as good at spreading intolerance and suffering as religious ones, the political projects of the twentieth century, such as the third reich or the khymer rouge, Maoist China and Stalinist Russia were responsible for some of the greatest acts of human cruelty in history - all in the service of irreligious ideologies.
 
Resha Caner
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:24 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
I am not so sure myself that, in the affluent western world at least, we have robbed ourself of individuality. I would go so far as to suggest that members of my society regularly adopt an almost provocative individuality - some of the more difficult people I find myself dealing with are at least partly so because they simply refuse to compromise what they see as their individuality.

Individuality can in itself become a cult (of personality) and seems to me to render certain practitioners highly antisocial (I recall a number of times were the defence of "I was just being myself" or "I was calling it as I see it" was used to justify provocative behaviour)

...



This one's a keeper.
 
William
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 03:26 pm
@Riverdale,
Nice post Riverdale. Just some thoughts of mine.

We define ourselves and others by our nationalities, ethnicities, hair colors, genders, sexual orientations, psychological aberrations, ages, professions; we're members and followers of traditions, trends, cults, philosophies, political parties.
Somehow we've robbed ourselves of the ultimate freedom- the innate gift of independent thinking.

I think "independent thinking" is a good thing if it is a shared thing with at the core the enhancement of those who are sharing. It has to be the initiated from the top down in a giving manner in such a way that will allow he of lesser thought to willingly "hear" without string attached as it is a "hand up" rather than a "hand out". We are so conditioned to think "what's in it for me" to the point that makes that "sharing" so circumspect, other's effort not to hear. So many have been disillusioned, hurt, conned, manipulated and oppressed by those who find self gratification in their guile, wit and intelligence that allows them to take advantage of those of lesser knowledge.. Most have no idea of the "inner reward" that such a "giving" incurs. In that giving we establish neutral playing field that will allow all to "independently think" regardless of what level that thought is at allowing them to 'progress" at their own rate in such a way, considering what the world has to offer, that will not "shock" their sensibilities.

But in no other area of self- definition and personal progression have we allowed ourselves to be so devastatingly cheated as with what SHOULD be belief, but is RELIGION.

We are all "linked" to the universe and religion is that feeble, innate desire to understand that link. It predates time and we refer to that from which we are a part and are extremely subject to those of greater knowledge as to what they have "defined" that link to be. As we grovel around in the dark trying to figure out where we fit in we understandably associated our "being" to that inexplicable mechanism that drives that universe. What we call "God" as we associated that "God" as being a more "powerful" one of us. All knowing and omnipotent yet subject to what we egotistically think we can understand as to how truly omnipotent that "God" is. In doing so we effort to imitate that definition we have "bestowed" on God giving us license to "rule" as we have determined God does. Here is were religion gets it awesome power and has made it's greatest false assumption. God doesn't have any rules. Man does; and he does to appease himself. Not God. Hence the enormous amount of blood shed in the name of religion.


So we're pack animals, creatures of comfort and habit. Most of us are more content to be led than to lead or explore alternatives. We have a learned, irrational tendency to unthinkingly conform, to be attracted by novelty on a base level and yet be immobilized by a strange neophobia where the spiritual is concerned. We've become used to repressing, avoiding, and ultimately denying ourselves the frightening- but imperative to spiritual growth- exploration of our own souls and their unknown destiny and fate, but also tragically their infinite potential.

Pack animals governed by fear. That's how this reality we have created functions as the strong overpower the weak in all scenarios as we abide by the axiom "to the victor go the spoils in all imaginable scenarios". And the misuse of knowledge is the root of all our short comings as we are also conditioned to "look out for number one". One is force to conform for his very existence is at stake if he doesn't. The laws in place protect the gross inequity that exists in the world as the "haves" conveniently label the "have nots" as "non-human" animals undeserving of those "blessings" the haves so richly deserve as they flaunt their status and hierarchy .Free thought is a detriment to power and it must be controlled and the best way to do that is hold man's very existence in the balance. Damn!

We cling to tradition, almost unquestioningly accepting what's served to us in terms of stale spiritual fare. We imitate rather than innovate, not daring to stray from the beaten paths where it would be, ironically, most important. We timorously go with the flow and are swallowed in the masses of collective non- thinking and brainwashing. Most of us have been indoctrinated from birth, ostensibly for our own good, with the idea that organized religion is the only way to save ourselves. Even in the most common case of religion by "default", adoption of the religion of our families, we have an inertia- like tendency to accept the default and very rarely give a serious thought, "practicing" or not, to opt completely out.


We cling to tradition because it is "easy". We are comfortable there to the point "new, out of the box" thought draws "strange looks" , Ha. Especially if one efforts to bring a higher understanding to the "primitive" interpretations religion has used to deter that beautiful mind we were all endowed with to think for "itself", which it is more that capable of doing if we just "un-encumber " with "traditional thinking". Much easier said than done. I have so often notice most people survive in a limited sphere of influence of which they have all they need to "feel safe" in all that goes on in that sphere and to venture from it scares the living hell out of them. IMO. All they know of the world is what that sphere offers as it will be absolutely in line with what they think. Bird's of a feather mentality with absolutely no desire to venture form it. How so very isolating. These sphere's exist in all size's and religion is but one of them.

WHY, in our supposedly otherwise so advanced era are we still so dark- age backward in spiritual progression?

Simply, IMO even though what we know of this "core" of our being is primitive, it works. To the point to where we think we know enough to "get along", so to speak. When, again IMO, we are but on the tip of the ice berg as to how powerful this core is as it relates to us. It is man's mis-interpretations that have cause all the problems. As in all "power" whether it be political, wealth or religious, power is corrupting and all consuming and not easily relinquished. Once we learn more can be learned from cooperation rather than intimidation, will we be free to take advantage of that "spiritual progression" as you put it and become the "divine creations" we were meant to be, whatever that is.


Of course there are the obvious benefits of community and comfort, guidance and a certain peace of mind. But we have to weigh them against the negatives. We can't deny that we're fully aware of the almost unfathomably detrimental, oppressive influence that organized religion has always had on the political- economical, social/ moral/ ideological evolution of man. The books and scriptures are filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and destructive teachings. Religious fundamentalism with its deliberate misinterpretations and the resulting horrors of terrorism, prejudice and discrimination are spreading again at a sickening rate, and brutal wars are still being fought, as ever, because of these teachings. Extreme misogynistic practices, physical mutilation, unwanted pregnancies and barbaric lynchings are (to mention just a few) daily occurences in the name of various religions. There can be no realistic secularization on a global scale.

The giving of one's "self" for spiritual awakening IMO is the key. It just so happens that happens in a sphere that all to often is within a religious setting and precludes one to believe that awakening to be associated with that surrounding or that particular belief. When in fact it could happen to anyone anywhere but not at anytime. That will be left up to the individual and their own time. Unfortunately there is entirely too much "outer inertia" forcing one to cling to self as a defense mechanism for that to happen. What is so misunderstood is many think if God is so powerful, why doesn't he just "make it happen"? And it just doesn't happen that way, IMO. Only the individual can turn loose of the ego. What I mean here is when we begin apply the knowledge we have acquired as it relates to the welfare of all, is when God enters the arena. Prosperity is a "gift" bequeathed by those who are allowed to grow as a result of those who share their knowledge. Not saying we should not have a healthy sense of self, but to depend on self exclusively builds barrier's that prevent this spiritual awakening. You must want it, it cannot be forced. Just like man. He can't be forced to do anything unless you threaten his life or his soul and that is the exact reality we have created and know of no other on which we can compare it to. It's always been this way and precisely why the world is in the shape it is.

Why can't we let go?
See above. Ha.

Isn't it painfully obvious that it's highest time for a real SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION?
Yep! That's why we are having this conversation. I think we are at a major turning point.

Can't we begin to think for ourselves? To take the initiative, make a gesture, a sensible sacrifice and find the courage- as opposed to passively distancing ourselves even as nonpracticers- to officially
RENOUNCE OUR RELIGIONS
and seek our spiritual identities on our own? It's ludicrous that intelligent beings seem to be ignoring the fact that it is a logical impossibility to embrace and adhere to an entire doctrine, a set of beliefs with all it's intricacies, implications, ambiguities and blatant contradictions and to rationally, honestly say: "Yes, this is what I believe."

For this to happen we need to eliminate the "need for religion". And that can only come through trust, respect, understanding, communication and cooperation as we determine we all in this together. As I have said this world is not for sale. It is the home to all of us and as long as we maintain those boundaries that separate us our house will fall. If we don't do something and fast, Einstein concluded the war we fight after the next one will be with "stones". Life is an entitlement to all who live here and the quality of that life should not be determined by how much worthless gold you possess. The human being is what has value and what he can offer.

Nice post. I hope I helped a little as to what it meant to me. What ever that may be.Smile
William
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 08:21 am
@William,
Nicely stated Riverdale. I don't think I'd disagree with any sentiment you expressed in the opening post. But there's an aspect to this I'd like to address. Its a bit difficult to properly enunciate, so I hope you and others will bear with me. I'm going to state this as plainly as possible, and I'll beg forgiveness, in advance, for any terms I use here (for the sake of illustration) that end up enflaming anyone's emotions:[INDENT] Allow me to put it this way: If I had a nickel for every person whom, these days, professes belief in something - though they know not what - I'd be a very rich man. "There is a higher power!", "Embrace your true individual spiritualism!" and the like are just fine. But what this equates to is people who all run around defining their own fantasy; and in so doing, consciously fall prey to their fears and whims. Now, again, this may be just fine for each individual, who am I to judge? But....
[/INDENT][INDENT] ... there's a yellow-flag of caution run up in my head as this seems to be the latest wide-spread fad. We end up with so many consciously putting their hearts and hopes into something they've voluntarily created. What of keeping ourselves grounded? What motive might their be, when it's so fashionable to construct our own opiate, to embrace our existences as we all collectively are and as we all collectively see them? Why need I, as I've created my own dream-world, take care of, embrace or support others?
[/INDENT]A couple of clarifications are in order here I think (since it seems I am, once again, trying to "swim upstream" from popular opinion):

  • Agree completely that Religion and Honest Belief are nearly diametrically opposed.


  • I agree wholeheartedly that, with regards to an individual's spirituality (in however one chooses to define this), it is encumbent upon them - and them alone - to define this.


  • If I had big Magic Wand; and, for the benefit of humankind I could choose for all people either individually-formulated spirituality or from a menu of Organized Religion, I'd choose the former.


  • I don't believe in any higher power because; well, there's simply no reason to (as my mind is). If I had a reason, or sufficient need, then I would - happily.

So what happens when everyone constructs their own "higher power"? I realize that in the philosophical sense we construct our realities anyway, but as we traverse that border to consciously doing so, are we not wantonly allowing our fears and needs to deceive and divert us from each other and that "world" we all experientially share? Is this healthy? Is it a "good idea" with regards to human-interaction?

I hope this has made sense; and I hope its taken well. Words often fail me...

Thanks for the thread, very nice.
 
sarek
 
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 01:51 pm
@Riverdale,
Essentially I agree with what William has already pointed out.
Yet, I think I should add a few short remarks of my own.

I am not a religiously inclined person myself. And in particular the 'organized' bit has little appeal for me. I dislike following pre-set rulebooks and official dogmas with a vengeance. I question everything.
I enjoy thinking independently and it is entirely possible that where today I might agree with someone else, tomorrow may be entirely different.

Yet, in thinking about my own personal answers to all life's great questions I have noticed a most peculiar recurring phenomenon.
Completely independently of any official religious influence I have identified many passages in religious writings and in particular in the Bible which can be directly translated to carry meaning within the context of my own philosophies.

Time and time again I am in the position that the best way to illustrate a metaphysical concept or thought of mine which I wish to explain can appropriately be illustrated by using a religious quote.
I have the tendency to do that so often people might start thinking I am actually a highly religious person. I am puzzled as to the cause of this apparent contradiction.
Off course being raised in a part of the world dominated by the Judeo-Christian tradition the above may not be such a surprise.

But the bottom line really is that I am not so sure the writers of these ancient texts where nothing but a bunch of misguided superstitious fools. I tend to believe some measure of higher understanding must have passed through their minds and ended up in the manuscripts. We must always take into account the objective reference frames of each of these individuals when reading the old texts though.
 
Doobah47
 
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 02:10 pm
@sarek,
dave allen wrote:
Individuality can in itself become a cult (of personality) and seems to me to render certain practitioners highly antisocial (I recall a number of times were the defence of "I was just being myself" or "I was calling it as I see it" was used to justify provocative behaviour).


There is the contrast in this situation between your dependence on social cohesion and the will of the individuals. Not that I disagree with a social conduit based on common principles or behavior; though I think the notion of provocative behavior is relevant to the individual's perception, and can be avoided or modified without cause to homogenize a social grouping - in fact a social grouping could be as irrelevant to itself or co-exist in unity without any necessity for legal/linguistic conditioning, solely based on a principle of social dependence.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 05:35 pm
@Riverdale,
Although religion, and moreover, pack-mentality, is as potent a force today as it has ever been, I think that those of us who cry, "open your eyes and see the state you're in," need to open our eyes and see the state we're in. If someone here has the spiritual clarity to question religious dogma, and many of us do, then are we really so alone in our spiritual awareness? We condemn the religious for being naive enough to follow dogma, but isn't it naive of us to assume that all or even most of the religious have not thought about these spiritual questions for themselves and come to the conclusion that, for them at least, their particular religion offers satisfactory answers?

Let me point out, they're not the ones who are making an issue of this, we are. For the most part they just shrug their shoulders at us and say, "think so little of my self-awareness, if that is your wish, meanwhile I'll go and pray for your immortal soul." They usually have no desire to be at odds with us, why then are we at odds with them?

Yes, to us many of their beliefs are silly and backward, but we can't change that it makes sense to them. And yes, for the majority of them it does makes sense, cause the ones to whom it doesn't make sense usually end up leaving their religious roots. And we all know plenty of those.

It's one thing to tell them that their beliefs make no sense, or are contradictory. (Most of them don't care about that anyway.) But telling them that they haven't taken the time and effort to decide for themselves what to believe is not only presumptive, but it's also proselytizing. Cause let's face it, we're never going to be content with their degree of spritual awareness until it matches our own.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 07:38 pm
@Solace,
Interesting post Riverdale.

Riverdale wrote:
We define ourselves and others by our nationalities, ethnicities, hair colors, genders, sexual orientations, psychological aberrations, ages, professions; we're members and followers of traditions, trends, cults, philosophies, political parties.

Somehow we've robbed ourselves of the ultimate freedom- the innate gift of independent thinking.


I don't follow. Everything you mentioned changes due to independent thinking, except for ethnicity. Then again, the ways in which we define ourselves and others is the result of independent thinking. We make the decision. Even if our decision is traditional, those traditions have changed over time due to independent thinking.

Nothing prevents us from changing trends, philosophies, ect. I'm all for independent thought, but independent thought does not mean we ignore what has been and what is. We are members of traditions trends, ect, we are social animals; we are social animals with the ability to influence our social setting.

Riverdale wrote:
But in no other area of self- definition and personal progression have we allowed ourselves to be so devastatingly cheated as with what SHOULD be belief, but is RELIGION.


Not that organized religion is without flaw, but organized religion does commonly incorporate "belief" in one form or another.

Riverdale wrote:
So we're pack animals, creatures of comfort and habit. Most of us are more content to be led than to lead or explore alternatives. We have a learned, irrational tendency to unthinkingly conform, to be attracted by novelty on a base level and yet be immobilized by a strange neophobia where the spiritual is concerned. We've become used to repressing, avoiding, and ultimately denying ourselves the frightening- but imperative to spiritual growth- exploration of our own souls and their unknown destiny and fate, but also tragically their infinite potential.


I agree with your sentiment here, but there are some problems, I think. Spirituality is constantly changing. Those who claim to be returning to the past, or to the roots of their faith tradition have fooled themselves. Modern fundamentalism bills itself as the traditional religion, the religion of the past, but fundamentalism is just as modern as the atheism of Dawkins and his cohorts. The real concern is not the lack of spiritual change, but the direction of that change.


Riverdale wrote:
We cling to tradition, almost unquestioningly accepting what's served to us in terms of stale spiritual fare. We imitate rather than innovate, not daring to stray from the beaten paths where it would be, ironically, most important. We timorously go with the flow and are swallowed in the masses of collective non- thinking and brainwashing. Most of us have been indoctrinated from birth, ostensibly for our own good, with the idea that organized religion is the only way to save ourselves. Even in the most common case of religion by "default", adoption of the religion of our families, we have an inertia- like tendency to accept the default and very rarely give a serious thought, "practicing" or not, to opt completely out.


What's wrong with traditional religion, anyway? Would you level the same criticisms against the Dalai Lama, or Thomas Merton? In the spirit of '68, let's remember that traditions are not necessarily obsolete just because the sun set.


Riverdale wrote:
WHY, in our supposedly otherwise so advanced era are we still so dark- age backward in spiritual progression?


As you can gather, I disagree with your conclusion that we are "backward in spiritual progression". The fact that people such as yourself are around to talk about the issue shows that we've made some progress. Consider the mingling of spiritual traditions the world is witnessing right now.


Riverdale wrote:
Of course there are the obvious benefits of community and comfort, guidance and a certain peace of mind. But we have to weigh them against the negatives. We can't deny that we're fully aware of the almost unfathomably detrimental, oppressive influence that organized religion has always had on the political- economical, social/ moral/ ideological evolution of man. The books and scriptures are filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and destructive teachings. Religious fundamentalism with its deliberate misinterpretations and the resulting horrors of terrorism, prejudice and discrimination are spreading again at a sickening rate, and brutal wars are still being fought, as ever, because of these teachings. Extreme misogynistic practices, physical mutilation, unwanted pregnancies and barbaric lynchings are (to mention just a few) daily occurences in the name of various religions. There can be no realistic secularization on a global scale.


Yes, organized religion has been involved in a host of terrible things. But organized religion has also been involved in a host of wonderful things for mankind. Because organized religion has the capacity for both good and bad, the reasonable conclusion is that organized religion is not the problem. The way men chose to use organized religion is the problem. Looking at this passage, I think you already know this - you mention fundamentalists.

But you also say something else in this passage. "The books and scriptures are filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and destructive teachings." Inconsistencies and contradictions are necessary. Ever heard of Zen paradoxes? Inconsistencies and contradictions encourage reflection. As for destructive teachings, you will have to give evidence of this. Any teaching can be twisted into something dangerous. I'm not sure which scriptures you are referring to, but I do not think you can so broadly generalize about scripture.

Riverdale wrote:
Why can't we let go?


We can't? That's strange, I've known many who have. As a species, we probably cannot let go of religion because we are naturally spiritual creatures and communal worship is generally part of that natural spiritual need.


Riverdale wrote:
Isn't it painfully obvious that it's highest time for a real SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION?


Can't we begin to think for ourselves? To take the initiative, make a gesture, a sensible sacrifice and find the courage- as opposed to passively distancing ourselves even as nonpracticers- to officially


When isn't it time for good spiritual teaching? You know, from time to time good teachers do emerge.

Thubten Yeshe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thomas Merton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Just a few to look at.

Riverdale wrote:
RENOUNCE OUR RELIGIONS
and seek our spiritual identities on our own? It's ludicrous that intelligent beings seem to be ignoring the fact that it is a logical impossibility to embrace and adhere to an entire doctrine, a set of beliefs with all it's intricacies, implications, ambiguities and blatant contradictions and to rationally, honestly say: "Yes, this is what I believe."


I disagree. Why is it logically impossible to embrace the ethic of reciprocity and honestly claim to believe said doctrine?

Everyone has their own path, and this is something that organized religion tends to understand.


Riverdale wrote:
Is it so hard to recognize the massive discrepancy between "religion" and "belief"? The obvious paradox? The joke that's been played on us as an ancient means of subjugation and control under the guise of spirituality?


A belief- a true faith- is a conviction.


The term "religious conviction" in conjunction with organized religion is an oxymoron.


A SPIRITUAL conviction is the most personal, individual belief there can be and the result of a perhaps lifelong journey of difficult, frightening, painful and rewarding introspection, reflection, and intense soul- searching. It can ONLY come from the deepest self and not from opaque historical accounts and myths or elitist, undemocratic doctrines DICTATED by others.


I think the discrepancy only exists if we assume religion to always be it's nastiest manifestation. Individual spirituality can be just as dangerous and deadly as organized religion. Suicide cults, for example. In the spirit of '68, let's remember Manson.

Organized religion does not pretend that religion, spirituality, is not a personal journey. Even the fundamentalists say that the worshiper must have a "personal relationship with God".

Spirituality does not come from a book, instead those myths help the individual find within himself that spirituality. The books, the scripture, these point the way. Most Axial Age and post-Axial Age scripture makes a note of this fact.

Riverdale wrote:
What is ultimately more dangerous- change or standstill? Pacifistic upheaval or passive complacency?


There is no standstill. Religion is constantly changing. Fundamentalism is not the tradition of the ancients, it's a modern faith. The choice is not standstill or change, the choice is what sort of change should we see. Then go out and be that change.

Riverdale wrote:
Is it overly idealistic to attempt to begin the singlemost overdue, admittedly ambitious change in the history of humanity-
or is it our moral responsibility?


It is our responsibility to be a good person. Our responsibility to treat others with compassion. If an ancient text helps someone cultivate compassion, what's the problem?
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2008 04:30 am
@Doobah47,
Doobah47 wrote:
There is the contrast in this situation between your dependence on social cohesion and the will of the individuals. Not that I disagree with a social conduit based on common principles or behavior; though I think the notion of provocative behavior is relevant to the individual's perception, and can be avoided or modified without cause to homogenize a social grouping - in fact a social grouping could be as irrelevant to itself or co-exist in unity without any necessity for legal/linguistic conditioning, solely based on a principle of social dependence.
Yes, I make my point not to suggest that all acts of provocative individuality are worthless or obnoxious, but just to point out that individuality for individuality's sake isn't necessarily an admirable thing.

I think our society would be entirely dull without individuality, but I feel that some people's drive to assert their own individuality leads to some misconceptions. Seeing as we are all staggeringly unlikely forms of life and 100% individual why is there any need for an individual to asset his individuality?

I imagine the answer is in order to distinguish oneself from the mass of humanity. One does not want to go through life without being noticed.

As a personal example: as a teenager (some time ago now) I used to follow goth fashions. At the time I felt that I was expressing my individuality because I was distinguishing myself from most other young people in my area. Looking back though I was probably pigeon holing myself, I was only listening to music associated with the scene, my wardrobe was largely black, I read gothic literature, grew my hair long and dyed it black, developed an interest in the occult (even though I was highly sceptical of it), tended to veiw going to clubs as the only worthy social activity and even regarded the fact that other people were or were not goths as a significant factor when making friends with them. In other words I was acting just like other goths seemed largely to act.

I now regard it all as youthful folly really - but even though it was my own choice to act this way I can't think of many religions who would demand so many strictures from their followers. (Though I would concur with anyone who does point out that certain religions do make demands, whereas youth cults are just peer group pressure writ large really).

So would those who suggest religion suppresses individuality have a similar view of youth cults?

I also think that religion can be (and often is) one of the choices people make in order to distinguish themselves. If I announce tomorrow that I am going to become a Zoroastrian and that I wish my body to be disposed of by vultures when I die - does that not seem a more singular position (for someone in Nottingham - not someone in Bombay) on the matter of religion that admitting to being a bog standard atheist.

With respect to Riverdale's well written arguement, it seems to me to be less of an attack on religion per se, and more of an acknowledgement of the phenomenon that people tend to adopt the religion of their parents and/or host community.

I agree that this indicates a sad lack of the spirit of adventure and inquiry in many people, but I don't think it's an assault on individuality unless the religion of the community is one with a great many strictures. In England were the vast majority of religious people are a sort of vague Anglican religion seems far less of a barrier to individuality than, say, my earlier example of being a member of a youth cult.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2008 10:44 am
@Riverdale,
The vast majority of people that I know are spending or have spent a significant portion of their youth years "straying from the faith" so to speak. A certain degree of rebellion is common among the youth, most people here can admit to such, I do not doubt. During those years of establishing our own identity, we come to the realization for ourselves whether or not our religious roots hold any value for us. Many do return to their roots, many do not. Undoubtedly some who return do so because they found no other satisfactory answers out there, so they conform to the standards of their family and community. But if none of us conform, wouldn't non-conforming become conforming?
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 16 Nov, 2008 12:34 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
... what in modern life is culturally driven and what is genetically driven? ... has there ever been a period during the evolution of humankind where individual spirituality was valued over communal spirituality? ... while I am sympathetic to many of your ideas, I think these are the kinds of questions that your ideas (as expressed) tend to beg ... for example, low-population-density societies tend toward egalitarianism - but is this individuality? ... no - in these kinds of societies, if you don't put community first, you will suffer the worst imaginable fate: expulsion from the community ... organized religion, on the other hand, seems to be a cultural survival response to high population densities - that is, human society has evolved organized religion as a way of keeping large groups from tearing themselves apart ... unfortunately, large groups also breed anonymity - whereas in human societies of the past you knew everybody in the group and everybody in the group knew you, that is no longer the case ... the (evolutionarily) recent emergence of the concept of "the individual" may be a biological survival response to anonymity - something the human psyche may perceive as an imbalance with respect to the egalitarian impulse (instinct?) ... anyhoo, now that we're living with ultra-high population densities as well as the amplifying effect of a connected world, we're breaking new ground ... human culture needs to evolve yet again in order to keep humankind from tearing itself apart ... the roles in this new society will affect the amount of instinctual dissonance felt by individuals in the society - if the roles are more or less egalitarian, the instinctual dissonance will be lessened and there will be less of an impulse to assert one's individuality; if the roles are an even more extreme form of bureaucracy, the instinctual dissonance will be heightened and there will be more of an impulse ot assert one's individuality ... which brings us to the $64K questions: is an egalitarian global society even imaginable? (or is it completely beyond fantasy?) ... is "ultra-bureaucratic individualism" any more imaginable? (or is that a combination that could only bring out the worst in both?) ...
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2008 01:11 pm
@Riverdale,
OctoberMist wrote:

No offense to you, but like Riverdale, you really have no idea what you are talking about. You might want to do some research on these things before you make assertations about religion.

Also, exactly what is a "semi-occult musing"? I must confess that in all my years of researching religion I have never come across this term.
If you don't know what I mean, how can you accuse me of not knowing what I am talking about.

In reference to the Apocrypha, the following definition given by wikipedia may be helpful:

Apocrypha (from the Greek word ἀπόκρυφα, meaning "those having been hidden away"[1]) are texts of uncertain authenticity, or writings where the authorship is questioned.

When used in the specific context of Judeo-Christiantheology, the term apocrypha refers to any collection of scriptural texts that falls outside the canon. Given that different denominations have different ideas about what constitutes canonical scripture, there are several different versions of the apocrypha. During sixteenth-century controversies over the biblical canon the word "apocrypha" acquired a negative connotation, and it has become a synonym for "spurious" or "false". This usage usually involves fictitious or legendary accounts that are plausible enough to commonly be considered as truth.

You claim the Apocrypha is part of the Catholic Bible. That is not true. The Apocrypha, (as Christians understand it - many other religions have their own apocrypha), is a collection of writings written around the same time as the canonical texts that some theologans find relevant. Certain churches, especially eastern orthodox churches or gnostic sects, find certain parts of the apocrypha worthy of inclusion in their canon.

Hence my, admittedly irreverent, reference to semi-occult musings.

Your mileage may vary, but I would tend not to view a religion as organised unless it pointed to a canonical set of written or orally transmitted lore (ie: the bible), and an institution in place to disemminate that lore (ie: the church).

I would agree with you that Hinduism is an organised religion, I find it debateable that Shintoism is. Chinese Folklore is certainly not an organised religion - the state religion is that of enforced atheism and those that still believe (in secrecy) are either buddhist or christian. Folklore is a set of cultural traditions and stories rather than beliefs. To insist otherwise would be to say that Leprechauns are taken as seriously by the irish as catholicism - which is ingenuous.

I remain of the position that it's OK to make a general (or bold, if you like) statement, without requiring a comprehensive knowledge of everything in order to back it up. In a debate such as the ones this forum seems to foster I would say the burden of proof is then foisted onto those who seek to disabuse you of your notion.

For example:

"All organised religions refer to texts that contain inconsistencies (by this I mean that they suggest a particular set of values at one point [ie: an eye for an eye] and then give a different set of values at another [ie: turn the other cheek])."

"What about the Koran? I don't see any inconsistency there."

"I disagree, in early suras moslems are told to be hostile to infidels, which seems to jar with the later suras that require you to 'love the stranger'."

That would seem a more helpful (not to mention civil) model of debate than "you can't comment until you've read everything there is to read on the subject on which you are commenting".
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2008 01:20 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
You claim the Apocrypha is part of the Catholic Bible. That is not true. The Apocrypha, (as Christians understand it - many other religions have their own apocrypha), is a collection of writings written around the same time as the canonical texts that some theologans find relevant. Certain churches, especially eastern orthodox churches or gnostic sects, find certain parts of the apocrypha worthy of inclusion in their canon.


Let's be careful about this. The Catholic Bible does contain apocrypha - it's just that those texts are not apocryphal to the Catholic Bible. I say the Catholic Bible contains apocrypha because it contains texts that other churches exclude, texts which are apocrypha in other Christian traditions. In this way every Bible, or at least every Bible I'm aware of, contains some apocrypha.

Dave Allen wrote:
I would agree with you that Hinduism is an organised religion, I find it debateable that Shintoism is. Chinese Folklore is certainly not an organised religion - the state religion is that of enforced atheism and those that still believe (in secrecy) are either buddhist or christian. Folklore is a set of cultural traditions and stories rather than beliefs. To insist otherwise would be to say that Leprechauns are taken as seriously by the irish as catholicism - which is ingenuous.


Sure Shintoism is an organized religion - with their own lore, their own places of worship and their own clergy. No less organized than any other faith tradition.
And Chinese folklore is also an organized religion. The people of China are not either Christian or Buddhism. Chinese are also Taoist and Confucian. But China is more complicated than this. Most Chinese are Buddhism and Taoist or some other mix, almost all including Chinese folklore in their mix. Walking into a Chinese temple you will find statues of the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Jesus and heroes from folklore like the Monkey King.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2008 02:58 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;33688 wrote:
Let's be careful about this. The Catholic Bible does contain apocrypha - it's just that those texts are not apocryphal to the Catholic Bible.
As does the Tanakh (the Hebrew bible).
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Wed 19 Nov, 2008 06:15 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Most Chinese are Buddhism and Taoist or some other mix, almost all including Chinese folklore in their mix. Walking into a Chinese temple you will find statues of the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Jesus and heroes from folklore like the Monkey King.
Yes I accept that - though is that necessarily a valid criteria for an organised religion.

For example I would say the green men, sheela-Na-gigs and other trapping of celtic paganism found in some old churches in England are part of folklore, rather than the teachings of the church.

'Folklore' seems by it's very definition to differ from 'organised' religion. Folklore is a body of various stories and traditions. They may influence religion (as christmas, hallowe'en and easter almost certainly have done) but I don't think they are taken with the same degree of seriousness or relevation as religious stories.

One is a fan of folklore, as opposed to a follower of religion, I feel.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 19 Nov, 2008 06:57 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
Yes I accept that - though is that necessarily a valid criteria for an organised religion.


Depends upon the definition of "organized religion". If we use a definition that actually fits so called 'organized' religions, then yes I think we can say that Chinese folklore is part of organized religion.

Dave Allen wrote:
For example I would say the green men, sheela-Na-gigs and other trapping of celtic paganism found in some old churches in England are part of folklore, rather than the teachings of the church.


Why must the pagan elements be either folkloric or aspects of the church? That's kinda my point - they are not mutually exclusive. Those pagan aspects are both folklore and part of the church.

Dave Allen wrote:
'Folklore' seems by it's very definition to differ from 'organised' religion. Folklore is a body of various stories and traditions. They may influence religion (as christmas, hallowe'en and easter almost certainly have done) but I don't think they are taken with the same degree of seriousness or relevation as religious stories.

One is a fan of folklore, as opposed to a follower of religion, I feel.


What's the differences? Folklore and organized religion tend to be set around certain stories and traditions, particular rites and ceremonies. You say that this folklore is not taken as seriously as religious stories - but this suggests already that the folkloric tales are not religious. Most of them happen to have significant spiritual content. Again, The Monkey King - a folkloric figure who travels to India to bring Buddhist scripture to China. It's folklore - and the book is a Buddhist allegory.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Thu 20 Nov, 2008 05:37 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I think Journey to the West was an "honest fiction" if you will, though some confusion may arise because of a very similar character in Hindu religion, the monkey Hanuman, is considered a very real hero in the story of Sati and Rama.

Whilst the monk who inspired the character of tripitaka really did bring the buddhist scriptures to China, I don't think anyone really seriously believes he did so in the company of an immortal monkey-magician, an Ogre, a pig-demon and a dragon disguised as a horse - I think that's taken as a very entertaining and instructive tale based loosely on a real event.

To be honest I wouldn't even class Journey to the West as Folklore - it's a novel by a known author - it has spiritual influences and may well have influenced certain spiritual thinkers - but so has the Lord of the Rings or the books of CS Lewis.

Folklore to me suggests a more oral tradition (which is of course often collected as books) and would contain things as varied as hedge medecine, ghost stories, recipies, spells, fairytales, etc.

I fully acceot that defining lines drawn between religious texts, collections of folklore and even fictions such as Journey to the West do overlap and blur into one another. It may be nothing more than the drawing of a personal boundary - but I would say an organised religion is most fully embodied when it has a recognisable canon and an institution devoted to learning that canon and disemanating that knowledge throughout it's followers, maybe even persuading it's followers to evangelise the canon to non-believers.

That's not to say that there aren't exceptions to this (Zoroastrianism, for example, seems opposed to evangelising - it is solely for born Zoroastrians).

Whereas even a very enthusiastic folklorist would likely be highly sceptical about the veracity of the stories - and wouldn't much mind what weight other people applied to them (asides from issues of taste of course).

All my own opinion I fully admit - but seeing as Riverdale didn't define what he meant by organised religion I jumped to the assumption that he or she was referring to religions with distict and recognisable institutions (he or she refers to "their texts" - which hardly includes folklores as they have no sort of "set" body of writing.

The reason I claimed that I found shintoism a debateable case is that, for all I know, it is folklore-like in having no real "set" writings or beliefs - rather a body of optional works of no real widely agreed rating.

This would then be opposed to say a religion like Christianity with a set of books clearly rated as varying in import. There is the stuff to contextualise Jesus' background and give a "story so far" (old testament) which is important, but then Jesus comes along and his story and that of his early followers is a work that supercedes the earlier (literally, a new testament) - plus other optional bits and bobs for real fans (apocrypha).

Another intersting example would be Islam. There is the stuff Mohammad recited under divine instruction (Koran), the things he said when not under divine guidance (Hadif) and an arabic folk tradition (Sufism).

I really appreciate your input here Didymos - this sort of line of inquiry is a very challenging and interesting area for me. To summarise, I view the organisation of religion from folklore to highly organised as one big blur - with many exceptions, but I do percieve a difference in the two.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Thu 20 Nov, 2008 10:46 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
I think Journey to the West was an "honest fiction" if you will, though some confusion may arise because of a very similar character in Hindu religion, the monkey Hanuman, is considered a very real hero in the story of Sati and Rama.

Whilst the monk who inspired the character of tripitaka really did bring the buddhist scriptures to China, I don't think anyone really seriously believes he did so in the company of an immortal monkey-magician, an Ogre, a pig-demon and a dragon disguised as a horse - I think that's taken as a very entertaining and instructive tale based loosely on a real event.

To be honest I wouldn't even class Journey to the West as Folklore - it's a novel by a known author - it has spiritual influences and may well have influenced certain spiritual thinkers - but so has the Lord of the Rings or the books of CS Lewis.


Well of course no one believes the story literally - on the surface, it's a children's book. As for authorship, the text may be attributed to Wu Cheng'en, but the actual author or authors is unknown. Wesley's translation is an abridged version; I've not read the entire book, but it is a large work.

Folklore to me suggests a more oral tradition (which is of course often collected as books) and would contain things as varied as hedge medecine, ghost stories, recipies, spells, fairytales, etc.

I'm not sure what you mean by "honest fiction". Yes, the book is honest, as any good book must be, and sure the book is fiction as the events did not actually take place. But the book is also an allegory. Dante's Comedy is honest and fiction, but still an allegory, part of the period's folklore. Dante still influences our folklore.

Dave Allen wrote:
I fully acceot that defining lines drawn between religious texts, collections of folklore and even fictions such as Journey to the West do overlap and blur into one another. It may be nothing more than the drawing of a personal boundary - but I would say an organised religion is most fully embodied when it has a recognisable canon and an institution devoted to learning that canon and disemanating that knowledge throughout it's followers, maybe even persuading it's followers to evangelise the canon to non-believers.


I can buy into that definition. With that definition, Chinese folklore, and a great deal more folklore, is at the very least part of organized religion. Pagan folklore managed to move into organized Christianity. And Chinese folklore has remained from time immemorial a significant part of Chinese religion and spirituality.


Dave Allen wrote:
Whereas even a very enthusiastic folklorist would likely be highly sceptical about the veracity of the stories - and wouldn't much mind what weight other people applied to them (asides from issues of taste of course).

All my own opinion I fully admit - but seeing as Riverdale didn't define what he meant by organised religion I jumped to the assumption that he or she was referring to religions with distict and recognisable institutions (he or she refers to "their texts" - which hardly includes folklores as they have no sort of "set" body of writing.


That's the thing, though. Chinese folklore has moved into recognizable institutions. The idea that these institutions must be distinct, one for the folklore, one for Buddhism, one for Taoism, ect does not apply to Chinese religion given the way most Chinese tend to worship.


Dave Allen wrote:
The reason I claimed that I found shintoism a debateable case is that, for all I know, it is folklore-like in having no real "set" writings or beliefs - rather a body of optional works of no real widely agreed rating.


Yet there are distinctly Shinto temples in Japan. Shinto was once the state religion of Japan; how can the state religion not be an organized religion? Why must an organized religion have scripture? Was organized religious practice impossible prior to writing?


Dave Allen wrote:
This would then be opposed to say a religion like Christianity with a set of books clearly rated as varying in import. There is the stuff to contextualise Jesus' background and give a "story so far" (old testament) which is important, but then Jesus comes along and his story and that of his early followers is a work that supercedes the earlier (literally, a new testament) - plus other optional bits and bobs for real fans (apocrypha).

Another intersting example would be Islam. There is the stuff Mohammad recited under divine instruction (Koran), the things he said when not under divine guidance (Hadif) and an arabic folk tradition (Sufism).


It's interesting, though, that you cite two western religions as an example in order to help argue that two eastern religions are not organized forms of worship. Is this really so convincing, or are we just highlighting certain cultural differences between east and west?


Dave Allen wrote:
I really appreciate your input here Didymos - this sort of line of inquiry is a very challenging and interesting area for me. To summarise, I view the organisation of religion from folklore to highly organised as one big blur - with many exceptions, but I do percieve a difference in the two.


I also have been enjoying the conversation. I do think that there is non-religious folklore. As far as I can tell, Paul Bunyan has little or no religious significance.
 
 

 
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